When your app ideas comes into your mind, the excitement builds up. All the screens come together in your head. You estimate it will take 4-5 weeks to complete. You start envisioning your app in charts. But wait, is that all?
When it comes down to build an app, most people would consider it as a quite straightforward and simple task. After all, it’s just a small app, right? If you used to think building an app is simple and easy, after reading this post, you might need to give it a second thought.
In my experience, most clients don’t take all the task needed to build an app into consideration. From spinning up servers, to managing users, to integrating with social networks, to developing a protocol to versioning, to wire framing, designing and polishing your UX, the app building process is longer than you might think. In fact, in the time it takes to build a mobile app, you could fly to the moon… 11 times. You could drill three 3,000 FT oil wells. You could start building a Giza Pyramid and be 1/231th of the way done. Alright, I might be exaggerating that a little bit, but you got the idea.
So how long is that, exactly? A company named “Kinvey” surveyed 100 mobile developers (43% enterprise, 57% individual), asking: “How long do you think it would take to go from concept to store submission for a native iOS or Android app?” and came up with an answer : about 18 weeks. Let’s guess, you are surprised? Well, let me dispel the myth and show you what does it really take to build an app? (not some sort of wrap, a fully-fledge native app)
Here are a rough list of tasks that you might need to consider and estimate before you even start the development process:
- UI Design
- UI Development
- Server-side logic
- Data integration
- Data storage
- User management
There is a cool infographic done by a research firm (AYTM) which illustrating the idea and you can have a look at here. Click here to access the infographic
The research shows that backend functions accounted for 10 weeks, with data storage, data integration and versioning accounting for the biggest blocks of time at 13 day each. On average, developers felt it would take about 40 days to wireframe, design, develop and polish their app’s user interface, representing the bulk of 8 weeks of frontend development.
While the overarching findings are interesting, I found that responses to some individual survey questions to be even more intriguing. There was a wider range of responses to certain questions than expected. For example, when asked how long it would take to integrate data from third-party API into their app, 25 developers anticipated a month or more while 29 said three days or fewer. Reponses to frontend-related questions, however, were more consistent than backend ones. The majority (73%) of developers surveyed agreed it would take a week or less to enable offline usage and data synchronisation.
Of course, there’s a subtext to this graphic. It in general would take a lot less time than 18 weeks to build first version of your app. However, it shows you a pretty good overall picture of what’s happening behind the scene.
In a nutshell, I hope this post can help you understand the app development process a bit more and establish the right expectation(budget, time and scope) before you decide to kick off your development journey.